P-pah, p-pah, p-pah, p-pah, pa-pa-PAH!

Pearl & Dean has revamped its image. But don't panic. By Meg Carter
They are two of the most famous names in British cinema, even if no one quite seems to know who they are or what they do. Messrs Pearl and Dean have become a national institution, as much part of our cinema- going heritage as warm Kia-Ora and sticky bags of Butterkist.

However, even national institutions must move with the times. Which is why Pearl & Dean - perhaps best known to millions for its "P-pah, p-pah, p-pah, p-pah, pa-pa-PAH!" signature melody - this week unveils a new logo, title sequence and revamped jingle.

Gone are the familiar sliding dots and lines, variously interpreted as the view from the Starship Enterprise at warp factor five and (more accurately) a representation of a street scene at night. In comes an abstract, boldly- coloured sequence of dancing 35mm film sprockets designed by the man behind the Channel 4 logo: design guru Martin Lambie-Nairn.

A new logo also replaces the previous Greek temple corporate symbol - the business's signature since it was launched by the brothers Charles and Ernie Pearl and one Bob Dean back in 1953.

The new look is designed to reflect the improved fortunes of the UK cinema industry, according to the managing director, Peter Howard-Williams, and at Pearl & Dean itself, which has been selling advertising space in cinemas for almost half a century.

After a desperate slump in the Eighties, when arch rival Rank Screen Advertising (now known as Cinema Media) snatched the lucrative contract for ABC Cinemas, Pearl & Dean's share of UK cinema screens slumped to just 12 per cent.

"New management, new cinemas and increasing cinema audiences have seen business grow once more," he says. With 400 screens, Pearl & Dean now claims 22 per cent of the market. "The time was undoubtedly right for a contemporary image that reflected recent innovations in projection and audio, the birth of the multiplex, Dolby Stereo."

However, traditionalists take heart: the familiar music - entitled "Asteroids" - although updated, remains pretty much the same.

Dropping the Pearl & Dean jingle was never an option, he says: "It would have been madness - the music is our logo." Which came as good news for the original composer, Pete Moore, who was redrafted to bring "Asteroids" up to date.

Moore, whose long career has included musical arrangements for the likes of Frank Sinatra and Peggy Lee (not to mention penning the score for the Seventies current affairs show Nationwide) was commissioned to compose the original jingle back in 1968.

"First time round, I was searching for a different tone colour and set upon a mix of brass and men's voices," he recalls. "Second time round, we've made the rhythms more contemporary by bringing them to the foreground and making the whole sound more exciting."

With the addition of extra percussion and timpani plus a dash of synthesiser to colour the brass, the Nineties sound is designed for "extra kick". And, for the first time, it's in stereo.

Moore, who enjoyed a surprise Top 40 hit earlier this year when his original composition featured in Goldbug's "Whole Lotta Love" single, says he is pleased with the end result. "It has become part of British cinema's heritage," he modestly agrees.